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michael "OC" clarke
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Saturday, November 10, 2001
Sex, Lies and... Marketing
Brent Simmons writes:
"One of the many things I hate about that word ["meme"] is that underlying it is the assertion that all thought is propaganda. Is the theory of evolution by natural selection a meme or is it true? Memes and truth are mutually exclusive. The idea of memes is the idea that there is no truth."Man, where to begin? Because this seemingly simple question could easily entail the entire history of philosophy, literature, culture and a couple-three other huge categories of human thought over the last few thousand years. Instead of all that, try this...
Say you are talking to some guy who is utterly naive about programming. You can't understand why he's so upset and calling you a liar! What? So you ask him. "Why am I a 'liar'?"
"Well," he says, "a minute ago, you told me x=foobar and now you're telling me x=53.92!"
"Oh," I get it you say. (But do you?) "X is merely a sort of placeholder for some value -- we can instantiate X by assigning it to anything."
"But that's relativism!" he protests. "X is either 'foobar' or it's not. You can't have it both ways without destroying the whole idea of truth!"
Actually, the programmer's way of thinking about X is a relatively new thing in the world. Many people in the culture we live in still don't grasp it. Perhaps most people in other cultures don't get it. Try teaching perl to someone in some backwater tribal village in New Guinea. You will encounter difficulties not just in conveying the core concepts of perl per se, but in transmitting ideas that -- right now, this minute -- are invisible to you. You can't see them because they are part of your culture. Is your way of thinking about the instantiability of X "true"? And if so, is the other person's idea -- that this is way of lying (i.e., it has to be either foobar or 53.92) -- therefore "false"?
Be careful how you answer this one. A minefield suddenly opens up. Welcome to the postmodern and the multicultural -- and if you thought "meme" was a loaded term, try those two on for size. Then ask again if natural selection is True or False. Hell man, not even western biologists can agree on that one. And the various schools of agreement and disagreement are hedged about on all sides with conditions, caveats and disclaimers. You picked a hell of an example to exemplify unequivocal TRUTH!
And it goes deeper than that, of course. Ultimate truth presupposes an ultimate authority. Once it was the Word of God. Then it was the Divine Right of Kings. The Enlightenment replaced all that with Rationality and Scientific Method. Which gave us what? Do the "math." It gave us the irrational, hugely unscientific world we're living in today.
Perhaps I never should have used the word "meme" -- would you believe it was tongue-in-cheek? They don't call me RageBoy for nothin, ya know. Most of my readers know instantly when I write something as high-sounding and full of hot air as "memic propagation and amplification" that some kozmik joke is about to be launched. And I guess I'd have to say the launch was pretty successful. Because it's got a bunch of people twisted up about meaning and truth and what any of this might have to do with "marketing." Good.
For the record, I bear no grudge toward Robert Scoble, whom I don't know personally. Nor toward Dave Winer, whom I count a friend -- enough so that I've felt free to yank his chain here, and have had great fun doing so. However, having said that, Winer and Scoble seem to have immediately assumed -- clearly without having read any of my work; which you can do here for free -- that a book called Gonzo Marketing must be something like Guerilla Marketing. Seems reasonable, right? No. Not right. Not even close.
In a world where (sorry folks) no one has The Ultimate Truth, we are all marketing little truths to each other constantly. The little truth I'm marketing -- though I think it's not so small -- is that business has highjacked the whole notion of VALUE, and is marketing the shit out of it to a global culture using the Internet as the latest and greatest vector for its -- you're damn straight -- propaganda. My ideas are not about how to better hawk washday miracles or the latest software products, but how to take back the fucking world from the sexless, humorless powers that be, whose only concern is to hang onto that power at all costs and to extend it through globalization to every quarter of the known universe.
This is important shit, folks. An important conversation. Or debate or whatever the fuck you want to call it. But kneejerk opinions will not advance it. And painting me as Mr. Marketing who has come into your sacrosanct blogspace as some sort of alien interloper is simply laughable. I'm laughing anyway, and I hope you are too. What is most important to me about the net right now -- and I see it in many of the blogs I read -- is simple: joy.
In a culture of anal retentive institutional androids, joy is seditious. I don't give a crap about "truth" or Truth -- or natural selection or the value of foobar for that matter. But I care a lot about how we are infecting each other (and it is infectious) with the permission to write larger, think bigger and just plain kick out the fucking jams here. Enthusiasm. Passion. Joy. Let's talk about that.
9:16 AM | link |
"RageBoy: Giving being fucking nuts a good name since 1985."
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